(Promotion: Absolute Intense Wrestling – Location: Tadmor Shrine, Akron, OH – March 10, 2018)
The doors were advertised to open at 6 PM. I arrive at 6:30. The attendance was already far greater than for any other wrestling event I’d previously attended in the venue.
The line for Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was substantial and steady. While I didn’t get to examine it up close, it appears that he brought his original Intercontinental Championship with him to the appearance. How cool is that?
AIW ring announcer Steve Guy is out dressed in a sharp blue three-piece suit. He thanks the AIW faithful for turning out.
He says the company was worried about the attendance (this is AIW’s first time running Akron), but he thinks that they will be back.
Guy intros the staff of Smart Mark Video, who was there shooting the show, and Matt Wadsworth and Brian Carson who are on commentary for the evening.
Matthew Justice defeated Bobby Beverly and Chase Oliver
Beverly and Justice hug before the bell.
Oliver reverses a pop-up powerbomb into a hurricanrana.
Beverly rakes Justice’s eyes across the steel barrier. And for good measure, he chops him.
Oliver moonsaults Beverly on the floor. He then re-enters the ring and slingshots himself over the top rope onto Justice, who catches him.
Oliver hits a “Shooting Star” on Beverly.
Justice catches Oliver in an inverted driver and scores the pinfall. Beverly dove in a second too late to break up the pin.
Justice and Beverly did most of the heavy lifting in this one. Oliver wove himself around them with an occasional flashy move. (Speaking of, he did a “Moonsault” to the floor in the match. Not to sound like Jim Cornette but it is highly debatable if that stuff belongs in the first contest of the night.)
Oliver is looking noticeably thicker. He clearly did not waste his time on while recovering from his injury last summer.
This was a serviceable opener.
Britt Baker defeated Karen Q by submission
Baker goes for a pin attempt very early.
Q connects with a running elbow and boot. She follows with a wicked suplex.
Baker levels her with a “Sling Blade.”
Q retaliates with a “Samoan Drop” for two. She locks in a “Boston Crab” and a “Gourdbuster” for another near-fall.
Baker catches her opponent in a submission hold for the victory.
Baker has a lot of charisma and has been kept strong with thoughtful booking. Q worked hard to engage the audience. That being said, there was no real intensity between the two in the ring.
AIW Tag Team Championship
Twins (Pretty Boy Smooth & Swoggle) (c) defeated “Party” Parker Pierce & “Big” Twan Tucker
I popped when Guy announced the champions at “a combined height of 9 1/2 feet tall.”
Right off the bat, Smooth and Swoggle work in comedy. Smooth put his boot up on the top rope so Swoggle could smash Pierce’s head into it. But it was too high for his partner so he had to lower it to the second rope.
Tucker splashes Swoggle.
Swoggle is in extended peril…but he finally gets the “hot tag.”
Smooth wrecks his opponents.
Swoggle bites Tucker on the ass before chomping on Pierce’s finger.
Smooth hits a chokeslam/bomb for the pin to retain the championship.
Smooth and Swoggle are the classic “odd couple” tag team that shouldn’t work, but does. They have strong chemistry and are way over with the fans. I like them quite a bit. (And while To Infinity & Beyond are a decent act, they have long since worn out their welcome in the division. Now if only AIW can regularly start bringing in a few more dedicated tag teams…)
Dominic Garrini defeated Dan “The Beast” Severn by submission
Tom Dunn is out to referee the match.
Garrini enters the ring to “Them Bones” by Alice in Chains.
Garrini’s original opponent was to be Eddie Kingston. However, Kingston’s grandmother passed earlier in the week and he had to cancel his weekend appearances. Therefore, the audience was waiting with bated breath to see who would be facing the “Bone Collector.”
Dan Severn steps out from behind the curtain.
Audience: “Beast! Beast! Beast!”
Severn wrestles in a grey t-shirt tucked into black trunks.
The first few minutes of the match are friendly.
Finally, Severn gets Garrini’s leg and dumps him on his ass. He tosses Garrini with a Biel throw.
Garrini goes for an arm but Severn gets to the ropes.
Severn hoists up Garrini into a gut wrench suplex, who lands awkwardly. He then Biels him halfway across the ring.
Garrini strikes with a belly-to-back suplex for a near-fall.
The opponents trade chops.
Severn slams Garrini, who catches him in a triangle choke for the submission.
Even in defeat, the former NWA World Heavyweight Champion gets a standing ovation.
“Beast! Beast! Beast!”
First and foremost, condolences to Eddie Kingston and his family. Losing a loved one is a terrible trauma. I’m sending positive energy their way.
This match was really cool. The 59-year-old UFC legend astutely keeps his bouts short, but intense. He may not go for 20 minutes in the ring, but he gives 100% effort once the bell rings. It is a real treat that AIW has been able to develop a relationship with him because “The Beast” still has a lot to offer.
During the intermission, I briefly chatted with Garrini. He said that it was surreal being in the ring with the multiple-time UFC champion. I can only imagine.
Garrini was the subject of a feature article in the Canton Repository just a few days before the show. (Read the article HERE.)
Segment: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (w/ “special” guest)
Steve Guy introduces Ricky Steamboat, who gets a mega-pop.
Steamboat shakes hands with fans in the front row as he makes his way to the ring. Once inside, Guy hands him the mic and shakes his hand. He attempts to leave but “The Dragon” insists that he stays.
Steamboat reveals that last November marked his 42nd year in the business. He laughed as he told a story about when earlier in the evening he met one of the police officers who is providing security for the event. The officer told him that he used to watch him as a young child. He laughed while he said it made him feel old.
He then began to talk about Vince McMahon’s efforts to expand the World Wrestling Federation in the early-80s. He joined the company around this time. He said they were flying by the seat of their pants and really didn’t know if it was going to work.
He remembers his first feud with the company was with Don Muraco who was managed by Mr. Fuji.
Steamboat calls it the “golden years of the business.”
He then starts to talk about Ric Flair. He says that he wishes that he had a dollar for every time he was in the ring with him.
The Dragon talks about visiting Flair in the hospital in Atlanta last December when he was near-death and in a coma. He tells a great story about an unconscious Flair mumbling wrestling promos in his sleep.
He then transitions over to talking about Randy Savage. He said the Macho Man made him a main-eventer.
It’s at this time that the Duke’s music hits. The hate from the live audience pours down upon him.
The Duke introduces himself. He says that Steamboat is “too old” to be in the ring.
Duke: “Don’t make me take off my jacket and get in there, goddammit, cuz I will!”
The two jaw back and forth as Duke slowly eases his way into the ring.
Duke says that Steamboat did great things…but also lost to the Honky Tonk Man. He approaches Steamboat closely to confront him. Steamboat thanks the audience and tries to leave the ring but the Duke attacks him. The Dragon overwhelms Duke with chops and strikes.
Audience: “You still got it!”
Steamboat leaves the ring as his music plays.
For being 65 years old, Steamboat is in incredible shape. He really looks terrific.
And every report I heard about him after the show suggest that Ricky Steamboat is nothing but a polite, amiable and generous guy. I even read online that he gave a generous tip to one of the AIW staffers who drove him to the airport after the show. He is the rare genuinely good guys in the business.
One thing about the segment…
I feel that it was a missed opportunity. I like the Duke as a performer. He is a strong talker and a decent manager. He has very rarely wrestled for AIW in recent years.
And then there is Magnum CK. CK is young, creative, has a great look and is on fire in every promotion that is currently booking him. He also does some terrific impressions of dozens of wrestling’s elite. (Click HERE to watch a brief collection of them.)
Imagine Steamboat segueing into the Savage story and instead of Duke’s music hitting, Savage’s does. Magnum CK comes out working the Macho Man persona and confronts Steamboat. The segment can play out the same but this time Steamboat gives the rub to an active heel competitor in a white-hot act in the company who can use the juice to elevate him to the next level. I have full confidence that Magnum CK will run with the ball when it’s given to him.
It’s just something to think about the next time a legend is booked who agrees to do a segment.
Dan Severn and Rick Steamboat are at the gimmick tables signing autographs and posing for pictures.
Dan Severn's NWA World Heavyweight Championship Belt
The Production (Frankie Flynn, Magnum CK, Derek Director & Eddie Only) defeated PM Experience (Philly Collins & Marino Tenaglia) & Weird World (Worldwide & Weird Body) by submission
The Production enters to a thunderous ovation.
The crowd dances and sings along to “Sussudio” as the PM Experience are introduced.
CK and Tenaglia start the match.
The audience is way into both teams.
Worldwide tags in and pummels CK while he sells like a sniveling coward.
CK does the Flair flip over the turnbuckle and is then thrown off the top turnbuckle by Worldwide.
Collins and Director are going at it.
Weird Body gives Flynn an “Enziguri.” He follows with a dropkick.
Audience: “Weird Bo-dy!”
Weird Body and Flynn tumble over the ropes to the floor.
A Pier-Six brawl erupts.
Collin boots Only.
Tenaglia leaps over the top rope onto his opponents.
Only walks the ropes and dives to the floor.
Flynn seems legitimately deranged.
Weird Body baseball slides into Flynn.
Director sunset flips Weird Body.
Worldwide does the Terry Funk ladder spot using Tenaglia instead of a ladder.
CK hits a gnarly flying elbow to Tenaglia.
Collins DDTs CK at the precise second that Weird Body dropkicks Magnum in his posterior.
Flynn forces Weird Body to submit to an ankle lock.
Worldwide carries Weird Body to the locker room.
This was a lot of fun. Both teams are over like rover. When the Production debuted, I was certain that it was a bomb ready to explode, but Director, CK, Flynn and Only have not only found a way to make it work—but to excel. It is going to be difficult to keep them heels for much longer.
Hoban Knights Street Fight
Kevin Thorn defeated Dr. Daniel C. Rockingham
Thorn gets on the microphone and says that he goes by many names but tonight he wants to be known as Kevin Fertig (his shoot name). He says that he grew up in Akron. He family worked for Lawsons and went to Hoban High School. He wants his match tonight to be a “Hoban Knights Street Fight.”
Rockingham gets inundated with toilet paper streamers.
Fertig spits beer in DCR’s face as the two brawl through the audience. He bounces Rockingham’s head off the merch table.
DCR beats on Fertig with a Lacrosse stick. He gives his opponent a…paper cut (?!).
Fertig slams him. He catches Rockingham in the “Crucifix” and pins him.
After the bell, he climbs into the crowd to hug various members of his family who are in attendance.
Fun match. DCR continues to make progress. My only complaint is that when they went out in the audience to brawl it was hard to see the action.
DJZ defeated Tre Lamar
Lots of back-and-forths early in the bout.
A few minutes into the match, Lamar hits a springboard clothesline.
Z misses a “Lionsault.” He then accidentally superkicks referee Jake Clemons.
Lamar has Z down for a pin but there is no officiant.
Z lowblows Lamar and rolls him up.
Referee Dave “the Potato” Dawson is out to make a two-count.
DJZ shoves Potato. Potato shoves him back. Z superkicks him. Z gets a chair from outside the ring. However, Chase Oliver comes out and steals it from him before he can use it.
Lamar connects with a low blow and F5 for a two count.
A couple reversals and a handful of tights earn DJZ the “W.”
DJZ is carrying noticeable less bulk than in previous year. He has, nonetheless, not lost a step in the ring.
Lamar held his own with the veteran. I’d like to see some growth from his character. I feel like I don’t know much about who “Tre Lamar” is.
Joshua Bishop defeated Josh Prohibition by disqualification
Within minutes, the grapplers find themselves outside the barrier and fighting through the audience.
Bishop chops Probo who is prone on a table.
They fight up into the bleachers.
Bishop continues to chop the former AIW Absolute Champion.
Prohibition gives the rookie a Russian leg sweep into the barrier.
The audience loudly supports Bishop.
Prohibition scores with a running boot to the temple. He goes for a “Drunken Driver”—but it is reversed.
Bishop: slingshot elbow (2-count), powerslam (botched 2-count) and DDT (2-count).
The crowd is restless and chatty.
Prohibition connects with the “Drunken Driver.” He lifts up Bishop at two. This royally pisses off the audience. He begins to pummel his young opponent. Probo shoves off the referee twice which results in his disqualification.
Prohibition gets a chair. Chase Oliver runs out for the save. He and Lamar jump Probo. Prohibition says that he will find two partners and challenges the trio to a match on 3/23.
The event ends with Bishop, Oliver and Lamar standing tall in the ring.
Hot match with lots of action. I like the pairing of the younger guys with vets. Prohibition is one of the most talented and experienced veterans in NE Ohio. Did Josh Bishop belong in the main event of the show? Meh. But like Gabe Sapolsky famously said, if you want someone to be a main eventer, you have to put them in main events. It only makes sense.
Normally, I’d be iffy about a show ending on a DQ, but the show was otherwise composed of all clean pins and submissions, so the finish works. Plus, it sets up for the show on the 23rd.
This was a good show, in no small part to the raucous Akron crowd. Going in, I knew that John Thorne was concerned about the draw but it turned out that was all for naught. With over 500 fans in attendance, this ranks as one of the company’s best turnouts ever. With the venue’s central location to both Akron and Canton, there was a huge pool of fans to draw from. (And I noticed a number of new faces in the audience. I eavesdropped on a few conversations to get a feeling of who were “smarks” and who were WWE fans who wanted to see wrestling. This was generally closer to a wrestling fan audience than smark crowd, which is how you draw 500 people and not 50. LOL.) Akron has been hungry for high-end independent wrestling for a number of years. Tonight was the bow on the package.
Steamboat played his role as “special attraction” to perfection. Despite the scenario I presented earlier, Duke played the villain well.
The students are all coming along nicely.
The Production is blowing up into a major act. Magnum CK and Derek Direction are both stars in the making. Eddie Only knows his place in the act and fits in well. Frankie Flynn legitimately seems, err, out there, so it gives the team a sense of unpredictability. I’m going to enjoy them as heels while I can.
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